Coastal Housing – co-ops putting communities first

From Ross Williams, Coastal Housing

Coastal Housing Group manages three co-operatives across its housing stock. These are:

  • Gwynfyd – Blaengwynfi
  • Glynneath Housing Co-operative – Glynneath
  • Bron Allt – Crynant

Although the three have many similarities, they are unique in their own way and as such, are managed slightly differently in each case.

Gwynfyd Housing Co-operative was established in 1990 and is based in Swn Y Nant, Blaengwynfi. This project consists of thirty-one properties. Coastal is a ‘managing agent’ in this agreement. There are currently no void properties on the estate.

The co-operative members set their own rent levels each year and access a budget, agreed by the committee, to carry out cyclical maintenance and improvements. This meeting is also attended by Repairs Service (Coastal) to discuss and answer any maintenance queries. The committee has recently purchased a mower and a strimmer to maintain the condition of the gardens on the estate.

There are four meetings held per year where the committee discuss allocations, maintenance, accounts, etc. Additionally, one meeting is held in February each year to agree the budget for the following financial year and agree the rent levels for the properties. The AGM is held in September of each year.

Decoration vouchers are provided to the tenants every four years, depending on property size.

Glynneath Housing Co-operative was also established in 1990 and has twenty-eight properties on the Heathfield estate. The scheme is fully tenanted.

The committee has the ultimate say on allocations and when approving or rejecting applications. If the properties are fully tenanted, an approved application is placed on the waiting list. Applications are sent to the committee who meet, independently of Coastal, and advise whether they approve or not. The Community Housing Officer leads on the supply of application information to the committee.

There are four meetings held per year currently, in January, April, July and October (AGM) as well as a Garden Party in the summer months. Each year, during May, compost is provided to each tenant for the purposes of decorating the scheme with hanging baskets.

During April and May of each financial year, the books and petty cash are collected from the Treasurer and submitted to the appointed auditor. Once audited, these are returned.

Bron Allt was established in 2007 and is based in the Bron Allt estate in Crynant. This co-operative contains fifty-six properties, fifty-four of which are Coastal properties with two dwellings sold via the Right to Buy scheme. Unlike Gwynfyd and Glynneath, Bron Allt is not a registered housing co-operative.

However, each member of the co-operative is a registered member and pays a £1 fee upon being issued with a tenancy. Rent levels for this estate are managed by Coastal Housing, along with the repairs and maintenance service.

Traditionally, rent-free weeks have been agreed over the August Bank Holiday period and the week between Christmas and New Year. There are 4 meetings held per year in January, April, July and October (AGM).

As an organisation, we have made a number of observations and have come up with discussion points around co-op housing in general and our approach to it:

  • What are the implications of the Rent Smart Wales (RSW) legislation on housing co-ops? Previously when approached, RSW had indicated, in March 2017, that they were not able to prioritise the enquiry due to the magnitude on their workload following the initial introduction of the legislation.
  • From an internal discussion on the role of co-operative housing within Coastal, we wondered how to best promote it and attract more people to co-op housing.
  • How do we commence a dialogue which encourages more ‘Asset-Based’ initiatives?
  • Is operational consistency across all three of our co-ops something that suits the communities or Coastal? It really should only be the former. It is their uniqueness that gives them their identity.
  • Thorough discussions took place, in advance of any changes to the geographical areas covered by our Community Housing Officer. Relationships are heavily invested in at a community level, and changes can disrupt momentum in initiatives even with the smoothest of handovers.
  • We would like to explore any potential training opportunities with the Wales Co-operative Centre, through the Co-operative Housing in Wales Project.

 

 

 

1 Comment

  • leonie@geni-us.net'

    hi Mark, I’m interested to read your post and it is great to learn about Coastal’s support for housing communities. I find myself wanting to know more about how the lived-experience of these resident differs from being members of housing associations. Scaling housing communities is something I have little experience of and yet I feel passionately about housing communities as the project I’ve been most closely involved with, took 10 years to set up and only has 12 houses along with a community house (kitchen, dining, lounge, office and guest room) and communal gardens and play space. Yet the sense of connection the residents experience is powerful and also enhances community cohesion around the actual co-housing community itself. This sense of belonging and commitment is something I’d love to see in the area I live now, which is Mount Pleasant. I’d therefore like to know more about how the three co-ops you describe got started and how much “social capital” is generated in larger housing co-ops. I’m also very interested exploring if this model might extend to one where lower income /in work residents come together to buy and restore a building collaboratively so that instead of paying rent, they come to own shares in the building. This is with the aim of providing themselves with a deposit for their own home over say 5-7 yearsif they are younger, or to simply give them a sense security, congeniality, self esteem and interdependence if they are older. Although it is often argued that a lot of people don’t want to own their own home, perhaps this is because they can’t contemplate that it is possible? Might your model work equally well as a “rent to buy” co-operative, cwtch’d or mentored by an organisation such as Coastal ?

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